It is often experienced by students of Theosophy that the more they study, the more difficult the study seems to get, and what seemed simple yesterday seems complicated today!
The key ideas in our teachings must be studied and meditated upon, not just for the solution of one particular difficulty, but as aids to the comprehension of other difficulties as well. This is the way to synthesize our knowledge, and, without synthesizing as we go along, the teachings become meaningless for us. We need to widen and deepen our thinking. When we act, we do not think of the reaction; and when the effect comes, we cry out against life! Just as our thinking is shallow, so is our study. A key sentence in our teachings may clear up one particular problem, but we must not stop there. We must pursue the teaching mentally until we find further applications of it, to as many other problems as we are capable of understanding now. The key sentences are like our mathematical tables. Without knowing the tables we cannot do even the simplest sum! And, if we have learnt the table wrongly, our answer too will be wrong.
One difficulty students face is understanding what the human "principles" mean. Is a "principle" a form? We can see the physical body and we are told of an astral body. But what of the Kamic principle, the mind principle, the Buddhi principle?
H.P.B. in her Key to Theosophy gives us the definition of a "principle." This should be learnt by heart and meditated upon. New aspects of it will strike us in time. She writes:
Every qualificative change in the state of our consciousness gives to man a new aspect, and if it prevails and becomes part of the living and acting Ego, it must be (and is) given a special name, to distinguish the man in that particular state from the man he is when he places himself in another state.
What does "qualificative change" mean? What does "consciousness" mean? How can anything become part of the living and acting Ego? Have we here a hint of the evolutionary journey of man? Do we find another hint when it is said that one can change one's state of consciousness? Let us work that out for ourselves. What stops man from placing his consciousness in the state of the higher Ego? Himself. How can he place it there? By making his efforts towards this end prevail and become part of the living and acting Ego. Try, try and try again should be our battle-cry. Effect follows cause. Patient effort brings success. The effort must be continued till we succeed.
We can understand the physical and astral bodies as vehicles for the consciousness to act through, but how can the Mind or Kama, both without form, be used as vehicles?
What is a qualificative change? What can change the state of our consciousness, i.e., our awareness, except the matter-vehicle it is working with and through? Look at a page of print; then put on coloured glasses and look again. It does not look the same; the impressions we get are different. Now think of the subject-matter of the print. Our consciousness is no longer concerned with colour but with ideas. In other words, our consciousness or awareness has ceased to function on the physical plane and focuses itself on the mental plane. If our emotions are aroused by the ideas presented, our consciousness or awareness begins to act on the plane of Kama. So the awareness functions at times on the physical plane, at times on the mental plane, at times on the Kamic plane. Let us go further and lift the mind higher than the ideas we hold, to the universal aspect of those ideas, and our consciousness shifts to the Buddhic state—though we are so unpractised in this that the influence emanating from that state is rarely felt by us.
The consciousness itself does not change; it only becomes aware of the state it is in, in terms of the vehicle it uses. It itself is the Thinker, the Perceiver. Go further—it is an Entity. An "entity" is immortal only in its ultimate essence. "Its immortality as a form is limited only to its life-cycle or the Mahamanvantara; after which it is one and identical with the Universal Spirit, and no longer a separate Entity" (The Key to Theosophy, p. 106). Let us remember that "that alone which is indissolubly cemented by Atma (i.e., Buddhi-Manas) is immortal" (Ibid.)
The Secret Doctrine II, 110) speaks of "the Monad and its conscious principle, Manas," dwelling in the physical tabernacle of man. This is important for us to note. But, just as fruit must be eaten to be enjoyed, medicine taken to do good, so this idea must be thought over, assimilated and used.
In The Key to Theosophy (p. 101 fn.) we are told: "Buddhi, receiving its light of Wisdom from Atma, gets its rational qualities from Manas."
We have much to learn. It sounds as if we have to ask ourselves all the time, "What does this mean? What is the meaning of that word?" etc., etc. It seems as if throughout the teachings are scattered phrases and sentences that illuminate one another.
Let us consider these further key sentences to apply always:
Our philosophy teaches us that as there are seven fundamental forces in nature, and seven planes of being, so there are seven states of consciousness in which man can live, think, remember and have his being. (Key, p. 88)
Even now, while we cannot master these high themes, we can have a patient trust in the processes of evolution and the Law, blaming and judging no man, but living up to our highest intuitions ourselves. The real test of a man is his motive, which we do not see, nor do his acts always represent it.